Grade: B
2017, 21 min., Color
Children’s, Animation
Disney
Rated TV-G
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Featured audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Bonus features: C-
Trailer
Amazon link

It would be tempting to say that the 2017 reincarnation of the popular ‘80s animated TV series DuckTales pales by comparison, but that would be like trying to tell people who grew up with Roger Moore that Sean Connery is the better Bond.

A whole new generation is being introduced to the new DuckTales, and they have never seen the more traditionally animated ‘80s version. As a result, they also have no idea that the earlier TV series had more color and fuller animation, with characters rendered to reflect what viewers had seen in the last remnants of Disney comic books and voices that still matched what families saw on Disney’s Sunday television programs. Watching the new DuckTales, this new group of viewers has no idea that Donald Duck’s nephews—Huey, Dewey, and Louie—are drawn more with more rounded heads and barely formed beaks to distinguish them from Donald and his trillionaire uncle, Scrooge McDuck, or that their voices are more contemporary.

Just as they’re too young to know the difference, they’re also too young to think it matters. All they care about is if it’s fun to watch, and DuckTales: Woo-oo! is probably as good as any non-educational cartoons currently being produced for children.

There’s a little Scooby-Doo! in these new DuckTales, with that style of animation and minimalist backgrounds that are slightly less saturated in color than the characters or objects that the artists want young viewers to focus on. And parents who are worrying about shrinking attention spans might like it that Disney is bucking the trend of giving youngsters shorter and shorter cartoon narratives. This 44-minute adventure expands young minds rather than contracting them or pandering to children’s fidgety impulses. Yet, the plot isn’t that complicated.

In “Woo-oo!” Donald is going for a job interview and reluctantly decides to drop his nephews off at McDuck Manor so their grand uncle can keep an eye on them. Boys will be boys, and Dewey especially starts getting into mischief at the manor after the trio discovers all sorts of mystical relics in Uncle Scrooge’s “garage.” That’s when things start to go “Ruh-Ro” for the gang, as they unwittingly unleash the ghosts of a pirate captain and a headless horse (all played for Mystery Machine laughs), as well as a golden dragon that seeks out more gold. It’s a Pandora’s box episode, and after the kids unleash all of these furies they have to get them back in the box somehow. Donald, meanwhile, has unwittingly gotten a job . . . with Scrooge’s nemesis, Flintheart Glomgold, trying to raid Scrooge’s treasure holds with his band of brigands.

There’s more to it than that, as the boys are surprised to discover that boring Uncle Donald was once an adventurer, and their own craving for adventure lures Scrooge into having one with them after not doing anything ambitious for years. Somehow, the fabled city of Atlantis is involved as well.

The plot may be a far-fetched patchwork, but children’s programming is less about plot than it is action and interesting creatures, and the helicopter rescues and ghosts and dragon will hold young viewers’ interest after the antics of the three nephews start to wear thin. And there’s not much in the way of peril to frighten young viewers, just excitement. Disney is also attuned to the fact that young children need characters that they can identify with, so they’ve inserted a young female duck about the same age as the boys named Webbigail Vanderquack, that might grab the attention of young girls.

This DVD is FastPlay-enabled, so it begins when the disc is inserted and keeps looping so that it plays the feature, which is Episode 1 from this debut 2017 season, followed by six two-minute “Welcome to Duckburg” shorts, a brief commercial, then a repeat of everything.

Do I think this new DuckTales is inferior to the first one? Yes, but I’m not the target audience, and neither are young parents who might remember the ‘80s with fondness.

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